It hadn’t been easy for Hiram to tie that jack rabbit to the tree. It was sweltering, close to a hundred ten degrees even in the tiny bits of shade and the damn rabbit was bigger than he was from head to toe. But he was hungry, so he’d tied the hare to his back and climbed the tree, gasping and swearing as his boots slid and the heavy leather chaps slapped against the coarse umber bark of the tree. It seemed to him that the tree was reaching out to him, pulling him down, refusing to allow him ascent.
But he’d made it, tied the animals hind feet, secured the rope to the bough and let the burden fall with a swinging whoosh as the smell of hot fur and musk rose in the air.
“Damn it,” he swore with the little breath he could gather after falling down the tree trunk, landing on his back rattled and dripping with sweat, narrowly avoiding a boot spur to his upper leg as his right leg twisted underneath him. “I’m so sick and tired of hassenpfeffer.”
The image arose of endless stews filled with the enormous cuts of the jack rabbit so common in these parts, swimming juices filled with wild carrot, spring onion, coarse chicory, handfuls of wild oregano . . . and his throat closed in disgust. He’d had enough rabbit stew. But there really was no choice. It was rabbit stew or nothing.
It hadn’t always been this way. There had been a time, a better time, for Hiram. His hand lazily pulled out a piece of cactus from his pocket and as he peeled it of the coarse outer green skin, memories rose like a white haze, a bitter scent, a rose petal of pink softness aching at the edges. His past had been anything but simple, but there’d been so much more in it than these damn rabbits.
Tears of shame rose and close to spilled out, tears of shame at his lost past. And he’d come close to deciding to take a stand, a real stand, when everything went awry with a sharp resonance before his very eyes.